Well, I wanted my first review of the new year – and hopefully not my last because I swear this time I’m going to stick with it* – to be The Tender Bar, but I’m not quite done reading it yet. Sunset Bay snuck in because it’s on my Kindle, which means I can read it in the dark when I wake up in the middle of the night and not wake up the husband, who gets cranky when I turn on the light at 4am. (So do I, for that matter.)
I know I’ve read Susan Mallery before – I vaguely remember her Weddings in a Box series – and I remember her books being pretty okay. Nothing overly complicated, pretty straightforward and formulaic, no real surprises, but that’s okay. Sometimes you want to read the romance equivalent of an N.C.I.S. episode.
Sunset Bay was…not that. The quick synopsis is that this is about Megan Greene, a young, successful accountant who is on the verge of making partner in her L.A. firm when her world is rocked by two revelations. First, her father – with whom she is extremely close – turns out to be not her biological father, and second, her fiancé has been involved with another woman, something she discovers literally 24 hours after the dad thing. After her biological dad turns his back on her, she breaks up with her lying, cheating fiancé, reconnects with her high school boyfriend, Travis, and begins to mend her relationship with her younger sister.
All of which sounds okay. Not particularly revelatory or groundbreaking, but okay. Except… it wasn’t. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just wasn’t good. The book starts out with a prologue clearly designed to drive home the fact that Megan is the ugly duckling to her younger sister’s swan, but the prologue went on for so many pages that I finally looked up the book’s synopsis online, thinking that the library had accidentally mixed up the files. Additionally, Megan’s mother is so horrible to her, so outright cruel, that it took me completely out of the story. I mean, Megan’s mother is literally The Worst. Like, the evil stepmother in Cinderella bad.
Add to that all the things that happen – Megan’s high school boyfriend Travis’ abusive father, the old family friend stealing money from the family landscaping service, Travis’ lingering anger that Megan wouldn’t run away with him ten years ago (when they were eighteen!), Megan’s father abandoning her upon discovering that she’s the product of an affair twenty-eight years ago, Megan’s sister’s burgeoning acting career helped along by some casting couch visits, which have just the slightest touch of slut-shaming mixed with Me Too (super weird), the lying, cheating fiancé promising that he’ll be true just as soon as they’re married, and a new colleague at Megan’s accounting firm who is out to get her – and I just…well, I finished it, but I didn’t love myself for doing so.
*I say this every year, so, you know: grain of salt and all that.